Was anyone else a bit confused right from the beginning of the second season’s premiere? I wanted to re-watch the last few episodes of the first season but didn’t get a chance to. So there I was, watching the season premiere to Dollhouse and BAM! Information overload. It took me a few moments to completely catch myself up as to where we left off, but I think I understand it now.
The main storyline of the episode went something like this: Echo was an undercover agent working with Paul Ballard trying to make a huge bust on an arms dealer, Martin. So as the undercover cop, she played Martin’s love interest. They get married. They consummate the marriage. And she continues to try and reveal Martin’s plans before they go on their honeymoon.
Something confusing was whether or not Ballard was Echo’s handler throughout this mission. He was not. He was just her partner to cracking down on Martin’s illegal deals. But in the episode, DeWitt and Ballard discuss the idea of making him Echo’s handler by mentioning how he still has an attachment towards her. He was reluctant to the idea, but he definitely kept a close watch on her while she was on her mission.
Meanwhile, Dr. Saunders, formerly known as Whiskey, was an important character in this episode. She was very unstable with who she was, which was apparent from her stalkings and sexual attack on Topher (hilarious). We find out that the scars Victor received from Alpha’s attack could be healed and she didn’t want it done to herself. Later in the episode, Echo had a flashback of herself and Whiskey almost kissing and then Echo saying how Whiskey used to be number one. Then Dr. Saunders had a conversation with Boyd about how her confinement at the Dollhouse was her decision. She knows she’s an Active. She could leave, but she had many excuses not to. But as they kept talking, Boyd made her understand that her fears of the outside world are all programmed. And finally, the conversation with Topher that revealed that he never programmed Dr. Saunders to hate him. Instead, he programmed her to be one to question things instead of obeying everything he said in order to make sure nothing wrong slips through their fingers. He programmed her to be a fighter for what she believed in, but he never programmed her to hate him.
Back to Echo’s story, she wakes up one morning alone in the bedroom. Someone working with Martin shows him photos of Echo talking with Ballard, who Martin instantly recognizes. He catches Echo trying to open a locked desk drawer, smashes her head against the desk and confronts her about working with Ballard. She turns the tables around by being extremely convincing that she didn’t marry him because of his money but because she loved him… until she said the wrong name.
Ballard calls in to Topher to check up on Echo and Topher tells him that she’s in trouble. At the airplane hanger, Ballard steps out and confronts Martin face-to-face. Martin takes advantage of knowing Ballard doesn’t work for the FBI anymore and strikes him. Because of Echo’s concussion, she’s glitching different personalities at a frequent rate that confuses Martin. Ballard tries to make Echo remember her ass-kicking persona by attacking her and reciting specific lines of dialogue. It somehow worked and then Echo and Ballard took on the entire Martin gang. There was a lot of action that included a shoot-out, a car chase with Echo hanging on the hood, and an explosion.
Back in the Dollhouse, Dr. Saunders leaves a note that Boyd reads. “I’m running out… of excuses.” She’s seen driving away from the Dollhouse and out into the open world.
After the mission, Echo got her treatment. Victor’s face was now healed and Sierra approached him, acknowledged him, and they walked away holding hands. During her doll-like state, Echo admits to Ballard that she remembers all of her past personalities and wants to find them all, including her original self, Caroline. Ballard swears to help her. The episode concludes with Ballard holding Echo’s hand and going through the ritual to become her handler.
I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this premiere episode. There was a lot of character development for Dr. Saunders, which I was not prepared for. I did like the double-identity storyline for Echo, which added a lot of action and brought back the Ballard-Echo background and importance. But after all the explosions, the only essential thing to take from her story was that she retains all of her past personas and that Ballard became her handler.
Amy Acker did one hell of a job as a Dr. Saunders who is being tormented inside, knowing that she’s an Active known as Whiskey. But she would rather stay as this Dr. Saunders than go back to her true identity, one that she doesn’t even know anymore. At times, Dollhouse has glimpses of pure brilliance in questioning the advancements of technology along with exploring the concept of people’s identities and their soul.
Oh, and before I forget to mention, it looks like the show has its new antagonist. There’s a Senator who made claims that the Rossum Corp. is withholding valuable medical information from the public that could be used to advance the studies to cure Alzheimer’s. I do like the angle they’re taking with this and am interested on how this all plays out. Will this Senator play Ballard’s role to find and terminate the Dollhouse? Frankly, that was one of my favorite aspects about the first season.
Overall, the episode had a lot of punch with some heart to give it balance. We’re sympathizing more and more with Topher’s character, learning more about Dr. Saunders, and coming to terms with Boyd and Ballard’s new responsibilities in the Dollhouse. Oh, and watching Eliza Dushku kicking ass will never get old.